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Teoma Hits the Ground Running



12:16 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator brett_tabke is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Teoma Launches

On March 22nd, I enjoyed a long interview with Teoma's Vice President of Search Paul Gardi about the official launch of Teoma.

Teoma arrive out of virtual obscurity last May. Within three months, they were purchased by AskJeeves.

Teoma has relaunched their new search engine today. Although visually it appears similar to the previous beta sites, there are some notable changes to the new search engine.

A Whole New Way to use a Search Engine

The most interesting new feature is the expanded Refine Results option on the results pages.

On the right side of most results page, you will find one or more Refine Result links. These links allow you to drill down into searches making them more accurate.

After a bit of warming up to the new feature, I've found myself using it often. It has an uncanny way of mimicking exactly the same search refinement process we tend to go through at other engines.

What is so fascinating about the feature, is Teoma's ability to identify major resources within communities. Most of us in the search engine marketing sector have heard of Kleinberg's famous Authoritative sources in a hyperlinked environment, I believe Teoma takes the concept one step further. Not only does Teoma identify the major "authority" sites in any community via it's "resources" links on the results pages, but it is able to determine the relevance of any link.

Gardi says that what makes Teoma so much different from other static search engine indexes, is that Teoma, "creates on the fly, clusters of web pages into topic specific web communities".

You can see this in action by using the refine option to drill down into searches. While it may appear that you are using a type of "search within these results" method, it becomes clear that is not the case at all. There is something more fundamental at work than a simple include/exclude type of search.

Teoma was able to determine that Webmasterworld was part of the search engine optimization community and NOT part of the search engine community itself. Other engines often lump us in with the search engines, or other forums themselves.

One has to wonder about the processing overhead that is involved in such a real time feat. It could explain why Teoma has remained with somewhat of a small index (by comparison to a few other engines).

The refine option is somewhat radical, I had to wonder if users will use it, or ignore it. Gardi said, "it will be a process of education, but we are going to stick with it".

The refinement process with other search engines is a game of "catch me if you can". You set and think up the magic search words to get the results you want. That process is always fraught with missteps. In the end, a search results page is only as good as the search terms that went into it. The Teoma refinement suggestions reduce all that guess work to simple clicks.

The accuracy of simple searches is ok, but once you start to work down through the refinement process, suddenly results become hyper relevant. If they can get this feature to catch on with users - they may just have something big here. This is a whole new way to use a search engine.

The Shape of the Web

The whole concept of "communities within communities" was brought out in background media literature Teoma presented. The real eye opener, was an image of the web.

While we all ran over the cliff with the easy to visualize Bow Tie Theory, Teoma presented a more complex view of the web as communities. Each community is only connected at the edges to other communities, inside of their authoritative sphere of influence. By using the refine search option you can certainly see this aspect at work as sub-searches tend to stay in their community of influence and do not go down false links like other theme oriented engines.

Sponsors and Paid Inclusion

Other changes to the SERPs include the addition of Overture sponsored results as the first two listings on the page. The links are well marked as sponsors, and clearly separated from the remainder of the content on the page.

Another option for marketers is that of the AskJeeves paid inclusion program. The paid inclusion program is handled by Ineedhits and is similar to other search engine inclusion programs, but is cheaper. A url subscription is good for 15 months - three months longer than other search engines.

Gardi said they would not allow paid inclusion to influence results in any way. In fact, Gardi felt that paid inclusion made their job easier by helping to identify quality sites to a degree. Gardi felt that if they have the promotion budget for inclusion, "it's usually a sign that they have a quality web team to back it up".

Paid inclusion turn around time was expected to be around seven days. That should be enough for most sites, and keep the quality of the index high by thwarting algo analysis. Gardi said they were also exploring XML direct feeds and may make them available in the near future.

Uncrackable Algo?

We've heard the phrase before, and watched the uncrackable algos fall. Having spent a week studying Teoma, I don't see how anyone could crack it without an everest like assault. There maybe some minor avenues for link relationship building, but Teoma's usage of links, link context, page context, and community context, makes the theme engine the most bullet proof algo we have seen yet.

The Challenge

Whether Teoma can break the internets addiction to Google is yet to be seen. They have a great deal going for them in highly relevant results, a SERP that is aesthetically clean, a quality brain trust, and the marketing and branding beef of a top site in AskJeeves. It's a safe bet they will be expanding along with AskJeeves into new markets.

About AskJeeves-Teoma

Stock Symbol ASKJ
Exchange Nasdaq NM
Last Trade 2.11 (04/01:AM EST - 4-1-2002)
Sector Technology
Industry Software & Computer Services
EmployeesApproximately 420
The NameTeoma means expert in Gaelic
Teoma ManagementPaul Gardi, Vice President of Search, Background in venture capital, product management and operations.
Teoma FoundersApostolos Gerasoulis, Ph.D., Vice President of Research & Development, Teoma Founder. Professor (CS) at Rutgers University. Expert in applied mathematics and numerical computing, parallel software and applications.
Tao Yang, Ph.D., Chief Scientist Associate Professor (CS) at UC Santa Barbara. Expert in parallel/distributed systems and scientific computing.
Teoma HistoryTeoma was founded in 2000 in Piscataway, New Jersey by a team of scientists from Rutgers University. Teoma means "expert" in Gaelic. Ask Jeeves, Inc. acquired Teoma in September 2001.
AskJeeves Management Team A. George (Skip) Battle, Chief Executive Officer and Director
Steve Sordello, Chief Financial Officer
Claudio Pinkus, President, Jeeves Solutions
Steven Berkowitz, President, Web Properties
George Lichter, President of Ask Jeeves International
About AskJeevesAsk Jeeves was founded in 1996 in Berkeley, CA, by David Warthen, veteran software developer, and Garrett Gruener, venture capitalist at Alta Partners and founder of Virtual Microsystems.
AskJeeves Company BlurbJeeves Solutions is a leading provider of enterprise class question answering technology that delivers Connected Self-Service and essential customer intelligence. Through an intuitive interface that connects customers with the information, products and services they are looking for, Jeeves Solutions uses sophisticated Analytics to deliver critical, customer-driven information to corporations. This essential data enables companies worldwide to build profitable relationships with their customers, prospects and suppliers. By learning from every online customer interaction, Jeeves Solutions helps companies cost-effectively increase the quality and depth of customer interactions and leverage customer insight to guide product, sales and marketing strategies. Corporate customers including British Telecom, DaimlerChrysler, Dell, Nestle, Nike and the State of Washington use Jeeves Solutions.

Notable Divisions, Links, and Domains:

AskJeeves Solutions http://www.jeevessolutions.com/
AskJeeves for Kids! http://www.ajkids.com/
Recent News Itemshttp://www.irconnect.com/askj/pages/news.mhtml
Site Submissionhttp://static.wc.ask.com/docs/addjeeves/Submit.html
Editorial Guidelineshttp://static.wc.ask.com/docs/about/policy.html
Pregnuta.com http://www.pregunta.com/
Ask.co.uk http://Ask.co.uk.com

Teoma Spiders
IP Addresses 63.236.92.*
Main block: -
random spiderings: -
Agents teoma_agent1
teoma_agent1 [crawler_admin@teoma.com]
teoma_agent1 [teoma_admin@hawkholdings.com]
teomaagent crawler-admin@teoma.com

Teoma Headquarters
1551 South Washington Avenue
Suite 400
Piscataway, NJ 08854
Ask Jeeves, Inc. Headquarters
5858 Horton Street
Suite 350
Emeryville, CA 94608

Recommended Advanced Reading List:

Hawk Holdings Launches Teoma Technologies
DiscoWeb : Discovering Web Communities Via Link Analysis (DiscoWeb team)
Division of Computer and Information Sciences
Teoma is a powerful new tool for searching the Internet that grew out of the 1998 DiscoWeb project at Rutgers. Professor Apostolos Gerasoulis was principal investigator on DiscoWeb and formed a private company to develop the technology under a license from the university.
Web Structure Analysis (links compilation)
Structure of The Web (J. Kleinberg, S. Lawrence -PDF)
Structural Analysis of The World Wide Web D. Gibson, J. Kleinberg, P. Raghavan
Inferring Web Communities from Link Topologies D. Gibson, J. Kleinberg, and P. Raghavan
Trawling the Web for emerging Cyber Communities Ravi Kumar, Prabhakar Raghavan, Sridhar Rajagopalan, Andrew Tomkins

AskJeeves Media relations is handled by Dotted Line Communications


12:22 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Excellant post, Brett.

I am sure that all will read this, including myself.


12:24 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Very comprehensive. Teoma looks like it has the potential to play in the big boys playground. Anyone disagree? I've got to say 'I like it'.


12:44 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator 10+ Year Member

A very nice and in-depth analysis Brett.

The results from what I looked through in some competitive searhes remind me of Inktomi before yahoo switced to google. Lots of tasty spam from cookie cutter pages that either use old frames spam techniques, or use some quick refreshes from old spam pages. As a matter of fact, I see some of the pages/domains from two years ago right at the top of the pile. The relevant sites seem to be starting in the 20's for what I was looking at.

Still we need the teomas of tomorrow to challenge the googles of today. Go Teoma!


12:49 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


I've not noticed any of these problems. Are we seeing different search results or are some searches more reliable than others? The only problem I have found with Teoma is that my site is number 5 not number 1 (although I know how to change this).


12:59 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tigger is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

WOW :) :)

great post Mr T, now I know what you were doing over the Easter break


1:04 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks, Brett, for this analysis. Another super post!


1:14 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Is there an index of reviews like this one that Brett has done for all of the major SE's? If so, would somebody please post it here, or at least sticky it to me. Thanks :)


P.S. Great objective review of Teoma!


1:26 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Thanks Brett!

It's great to finally have some good info on Teoma other than what has been passed out recently in the form of press releases and news articles.

I've been using that refine search a lot too. In addition to weeding out some listings that I do not need, it gives me a few terms/categories that didn't cross my mind but could be useful in narrowing that search.

brotherhood of LAN

1:28 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator brotherhood_of_lan is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Great post, I will have to look into it more deeper when I sit down properly!

Im just wondering if anyone would like to start a new thread in regards to the pro's & cons of teoma as opposed to this thread making us more aware of it :)

I just ask because one search produced 3 SERP's from the same site, I'm just wondering.....


1:34 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Fabulous information Brett! I wish only the best for Teoma and I hope they will offer at least "some" competition to Google. Were you able to determine what their inclusion policy will be? I am unable to access the site right now or any of your links.

I must agree with eljefe3 in that I found a LOT of spam in some of the top level sites returned in the SERPS including their "resources" link where I found a link farm.

Hopefully, over time they will be able to sort these out.


1:36 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator brett_tabke is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Bol - new thread - yes please.

I know what you mean Msgraph. I wasn't friendly with the "refine" option at first and I forced myself to use it while studying it. Within about two dozen searches, I found myself off looking at websites that I was interested in, instead of studying Teoma. I had to laugh - they got me with it. I hope others will give it a chance, as I think they have something there with it.

When I was first using it, I was thinking it was like the classic Infoseek, search within these results option, but it's not. This is a new way to use a search engine. That's saying alot. It's so subtle, I wonder if users will pick it up?


1:48 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

While the site looks nice, it's nothing I will be visiting or worrying about any time soon. Their database seems limited and I can't find obscure pages like I can in google. All talk and no action so far!


2:02 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

they still got problems with accents.. from a french webmaster, this is very important :(

when your title is with an accent, the results show a <?> instead of.


2:33 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Search results seem less relevant than Google's in my informal testing, and the "refine" menu choices have a random quality at times.

I can see using Teoma as a secondary search tool with Google now and then (the way I once used both AltaVista and Infoseek), but I think it will be a while before Teoma is a serious competitor to Google.


2:43 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator skibum is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Spiffy new look, but if they want to really get off the ground, they ought to come up with a Google-like toolbar for a little "viral" marketing. In addition to relevancy, one big reason to use Google is that it is not necessary to go there to initiate a search.


2:59 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


fingers crossed for another good traffic source


3:18 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tigger is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

It would be nice but I feel it will sometime before it gets anywhere near google certainly in the UK


4:48 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I'm under the impression that their results were more relevant before the recent changes, though I may be biased there... ;)

I suspect they'll have to increase the size of their database by at least an order of magnitude until the potential of their algorithm really kicks in. Right now, they simply don't know about enough of the links out there to make much sense of many topics. They may already be good for those topics that webmasters and SEO professionals are interested in, but for most non-web related topics there's quite some room for improvement. I've found examples where the "refine" links were rather contraproductive for the things I was looking for.

Not quite there yet, but worth to be watched in any case.
Also good to see that they changed their logo to look a little less similar to Google's...


5:10 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator lawman is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I have decent rankings for certain keywords with Teoma. I checked March logs. Had many hits from Ask, AJ, Ask Jeeves but couldn't find one hit from Teoma.



5:32 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Well, I like what I see so far, including the refinement feature.

Often you can gather a good insight of a product or service by considering their approach to serving the market and capacity for innovation.

Very promising...


5:42 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Well, I don't know if the algo is uncrackable, but I seem to have gotten it right on the first try with many of my sites. For competitive keywords, I have the top 3 rankings for several combinations I tried and top two rankings for many more.... meaning all two or three top spots.


6:30 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Any info on inclusion? Through jeeves or is there a link somewhere that i havent been able to find?


9:09 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)


4:13 pm on Apr 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

While Teoma does look interesting, I wonder how long it will take before they can actually begin delivering traffic to websites. I see that I'm ranking well for quite a few of my terms - but I think only I've logged 1 single referral so far from Teoma.


6:47 pm on Apr 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tigger is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

well from nothing to 5 hits today :)

ok it's not going get anywhere near my google traffic yet, but it's a start


8:39 pm on Apr 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member rcjordan is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Some traffic today. It's coming in under askjeeves referrals.


9:22 pm on Apr 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I notice a couple of the better meta-search engines are using either Teoma (ixquick) or AJ (Vivisimo). That is a nice little bonus.

I have gotten my first hits from Teoma today and yesterday -- must be the publicity.

I hope they do well. We need more quality search engines.


7:56 pm on Apr 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member rcjordan is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

>must be the publicity

Print publicity-wise, Teoma is striking pay-dirt now. Washington Post [washingtonpost.com]


9:26 pm on Apr 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

This Teoma 'refine search' option reminds me of Kartoo [kartoo.com]!
This 39 message thread spans 2 pages: 39

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